Published on: Jan 02 2009 @ 8:43 pm
A lot of questions came forth about how we shot Dev.d. Well, I didn’t know how to go about it either, like i always do, with every film. It’s the film that always decides the shooting style. Style is always a happenstance. It’s never predecided. Locations, where i am shooting always plays a major role, what i am shooting, the subject, it’s soul decides how i have to go about it. The film was set in various places, various moods, cities and areas. The film begins in Punjab, and i wanted to capture punjab. The question i asked myself is what punjab is all about. It is the richest state in India, reason- farming, and land which is so rich. Most of the people in punjab are farmers and family memebers who are in either UK or other parts of the world. I wanted to capture punjab like it is, still, the farming season, the harvest season, the farms, the jaggery units, the sugar mills, and lots of liquid cash. Big cars, hot wheels and people in punjab talking punjabi, music very rooted , punjabi. Paro is parminder, a rustic punjabi girl, who handles family and farms, household and it’s men with the same elan. She can be like a man when it needs to be and delicate like a woman when it needs to be. That is the reason I cast Mahie Gill. Mahie has been an actress in punjabi films for sometime now. I saw her at a party. I was with Imtiaz ali and we saw a girl dancing like there’s no tomorrow and then we spoke to her she was rustic, you knew from the way she talked that she was earthy. I immediately told her i wanted to meet her and told her she is my Paro whenever and if I get to do this film. That was a year before we actually started. There was a lot of resistance initially against her , but today UTV loves her so much that she is doing, Aagey se Right with shreyas and Kaykay and Paan Singh Tomar opposite Irrfan for UTV and my Gulaal.
The entire Punjab chunk in the movie is the way the place is. Still and picturesque. A lot of people who saw the film, their first reaction when the movie begins is, “this can’t be you,this is so yashraj, mustard fields and all, punjabi songs and wedding and all” etc. Then the zone changes. Story moves from Paro a.k.a parminder to chanda. It moves to delhi, south delhi, CP, shanti path Delhi, the public schools, then to canada and punjab during the harvest season and further to Delhi we know little about. The delhi of the nights, of dariyaganj etc. The style , we decided with which we will shoot her story has to be intimate, close and hand held, just follow her around. See her journey, what makes her what she becomes, and why?
Finally we move to Dev’s story. Dev.D a.k.a devender singh dhillon. Son of a rich industrialist from Punjab, the sugar baron and his wandering, his self destruction. This part of the story i wanted to shoot in various places. My choices were the places where people come from all over the world to find themselves. In india they are Goa, Dharamshala, Malana, Auroville in pondicherry , Leh and Pahadganj in Delhi.
Pahadganj normally being the first stop, on a street popularly known as the Israeli street. It looks like either Mongkok or some back street of Hongkong. A neonlit street infested with foreigners mostly israeli’s. You have the street food from all over the world, from shawarmas to momos to tempuras to shushis to whatchmacallit. That is where all the drug peddlers are and all the guys who want to end up with a white woman are found. All the white woman looking for nirvana end up here with some junkie or a peddler or a pimp. This place is like none else. This is where all the rich kids land up to have the white experience. That is where Dev lands up to find himself and he floats. This place has it’s own atmosphere and it is seductive. The shooting style changed with the place.
Dev’s interiors of the room in Delhi and Chanda’s interiors were predesigned. My production designer Sukant Panigrahy(Chak De) and his art director cum actress wife Helen Jones brought in the pink in Chanda’s house. She went and got every property from the mosquito nets to the che guevara ashtrays and mannequins and the various wigs. Similarly the also brought in the graffiti on the wall of Dev’s room. The idea being , a lot of artists and musicians have passed through this room and have left something behind in a way that’s permanent, like art.
Dev’s clothes and the bag and even the underwears were handpicked by Abhay himself. Rest of the looks were designed by Shubhra. For chanda we went on the net, picked a lot of Twiggy photographs and that of Gia Carnegie for reference, because Chanda plays a fantasy girl, she is a different character everyday. Paro we wanted to be as rustic and raw as possible so one could see the transformation when the story needed it. Designing Chunni was special, he stands out. Dubyendu has a beautiful shiny black skin and we wanted to put garishly loud colours on him, primary colours, was the brief given. That is how the look of the characters came together.
It was difficult to shoot on the crowded streets. During the day the approach was very Black Friday, hide the camera and shoot. A nightmare for the sound guys. Rajiv Ravi, my partner in crime, my DOP was game for anything, he loves risky shoots. We went for it. Shooting nights were a nightmare. We couldn’t light up, it attracted crowds in thousands. One day someone floated around a rumuor saying SRK is shooting here, the crowd just refused to go. We couldn’t shoot. We had to take a decision, either go on like that for days and inflate the budget or find a solution or relocate. Relocating was out of the question so Rajiv said lets shoot early mornings for night. And we did just that, Ajay would go individually to every hotel to put on their neons at 4 in the a.m. and we waited for the sky to turn slightly blue and we shot the night scenes. A lot of style came from the twilight players. The way they are, the way they dress up and generally be. We got our wim wenders frames and lots of gangsta look that came with the twilight players. We just let them all be and captured them.
I did not want to show drugs in the film. But the script demanded it, so I had to find a way to do it. That is where Danny Boyle came in handy.
Instead of showing the drugs , we just show Dev going for it and then the camera starts tripping very well aided by Amit Trivedi’s music. Dev.D is two short stories and a novella. A journey, infact three journeys of three characters and how they crisscross each other. It is about the times we live in of fast food, fast cars, fast cash, where love is confused with lust and viceversa. Where one doesn’t know what they want, drifting is the name of the game and people are living from one high to another and everyone is looking for the next fix.